“My Senator… wouldn’t give me an answer on how he would vote on the Reproductive Health Care Act because he felt like he didn’t have to. Because he was never going to have to take that vote as long as the leaders that were in power stayed in power.”
–Bridget Valverde, candidate for State Senate, District 35.
Welcome to another weekly edition of The Uprising!
I woke up this morning thinking: Now that Journalists in this country are literally on the menu, are we ready to take a stand against the root causes of what is rapidly becoming an existential crisis, or are we simply going to chronicle the End Times?
1a. Reproductive Health Care Act
Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) infamously said that he doesn’t think reproductive rights in the Age of Trump is, “a real concern,” adding, “And I just remind folks that this is a very divisive issue on both sides. And you know, it is an issue that would utilize all of the oxygen in the room… we’ve got significant budget challenges. We’ve got the PawSox we’re working on. We’ve got important bills that are of concern to a lot of people.”
Mattiello then kept the General Assembly going an extra two days to make sure all the important bills, like the PawSox, were taken care of. Which means, perforce, that the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) (S2163/H7340), a bill that would codify the protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law, is unimportant to the powers that be at the State House.
Can we please ask a favor?
Funding for our reporting relies entirely on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence is how we are able to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone right here at UpriseRI.com. But your support is essential to keeping Steve on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.
As the Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW) points out, “Rhode Island has created a political environment in which women are ignored.”
Speaker Mattiello, House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey own this environment. They helped to create it and they perpetuate it.
The RHCA was not given a fair hearing in the General Assembly. The legislative session ended…
…and then United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on reproductive rights, announced his retirement.
1b. Emergency Session
Rhode Island State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) demanded that General Assembly leaders reconvene to hold a vote on the RHCA in the wake of Justice Kennedy’s retirement announcement.
Mattiello quickly put the kibosh on that:
“Our session adjourned for 2018,” said Larry Berman, spokesperson for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) as quoted in the Providence Journal. The House, said Berman, was not coming back into session. Berman was not entirely correct. The General Assembly is in recess, not adjournment. As John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island pointed out:
FYI, RI friends, the General Assembly stopped passing resolutions of adjournment in ‘95. Now they just recess. Therefore Article IX, Section 7 allowing for the governor to call special sessions doesn’t matter. The Speaker and the President can call their chambers back at any time
— John Marion (@JohnMarionjr) June 27, 2018
Surprisingly, it was a member of the Speaker’s own leadership team that first suggested holding a special session in the event that Roe v Wade came under threat from the Trump Administration. In a constituent hearing last July, Representative Kenneth Marshall (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren) Marshall had the following exchange:
“Suppose you’re on recess?” asked Sharon Wollschlager, attending the constituent meeting with her husband, “Suppose you’re on recess and something like that happens?”
“Good question,” said Marshall.
“Where’s our safe guard?” asked Sharon Wollschlager.
“Good question,” repeated Marshall, “Yeah, you’re right. I think that’s a situation where you may see an emergency session being put forth. We have the opportunity to call a session at any time…”
Marshall made the surprise decision on Wednesday to not stand for re-election.
The idea of passing the RHCA in a special session was embraced by Governor Gina Raimondo:
It’s now more urgent than ever that the legislature pass the Reproductive Health Care Act so that we can protect a woman’s right to choose in RI against any decision a Trump Court might make. Read my full statement: pic.twitter.com/W3IHxun60Q
— Gina Raimondo (@GovRaimondo) June 27, 2018
1c. Rally for an Emergency Sesssion
On Thursday evening The Woman Project held a rally outside the Rhode Island State House to demand an emergency session of the General Assembly to pass the RHCA. As women who are running for elected office spoke to the crowd of 175 people, graphics were projected onto the Rhode Island State House:
Women running to represent their House and Senate Districts spoke. In the crowd was Representative Aaron Regunberg, who was the first to call for an emergency session of the General Assembly and is running for Lieutenant Governor, and his opponent, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee, who has been wanting to be seen as supportive on this issue. State Treasurer Seth Magaziner was present, as was State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence), the Senate sponsor of the RHCA.
1d. Bishop Thomas Tobin
In a revealing use of the word “scurry” Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence abandoned (yet again) all pretense that church and state are separate in Rhode Island and Tweeted:
The sight of so many politicians scurrying around to protect abortion is truly sad. Self-professed Catholics pols who do so should be ashamed of themselves. Note well: Support of abortion is contrary to God’s will, a betrayal of the faith, and a cause of scandal.
— Thomas J. Tobin (@bishoptjt) June 28, 2018
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol once accused Rand Paul of anti-Semitism for using the word “scurry,” and he’s not some dog-whistle decoding progressive like some I may know.
Paul: “neocons will scurry in.” Cf. Khalidi: Israel supporters will “infest” Trump admin.
Scurry. Infest. That language has a long history. https://t.co/Q5jbZsnSGv
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 7, 2017
Here’s a picture of Father Bernard Healey, lobbyist for the Providence Roman Catholic Diocese, all alone in a Senate office in the Rhode Island State House. I took his picture through the slightly open door on the second-to-last day of the session.
This is one reason the RHCA does not pass. The Catholic Church in Rhode Island has incredible access to our legislators, access the rest of us simply do not have.
1e. National News
“Emboldened by President Donald Trump, progressives hope to defeat the conservative Democratic machine in Rhode Island. It won’t be easy.”
2a. Separating Families
On June 20 around 400 people crowded the south steps of the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday afternoon to oppose the Trump Administration policy of separating families at the border. Organized by the March for Racial Justice Rhode Island and Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative, attendees were invited to “send the message that families belong together,” adding “Trump, our politicians, American businesses and defense contractors and the one percent are profiting off of the traumatic separation and imprisonment of these infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.”
Tomorrow, on Saturday June 30, there will be a rally against separating families outside the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.
UpriseRI was proud to publish opeds from rally speakers Janie Seguí and Casey Gallagher, as well as a piece from Interfaith Power and Light addressing this issue:
2b. Interfaith response
The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, in partnership with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island and representatives from the interfaith community held a press conference in response to the Trump Administration‘s family separation and child detention policy being carried out at the United States/Mexico border.
“We are gathering here in the face of injustice, not only as people of faith, but as people holding true to our long and deep history of caring for our most vulnerable,” said Adam Greenman, President and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
Another kind of Interfaith response came from the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel (RICI), a grassroots organization of conservative Jews and Evangelical Christians.
“Implying that the temporary separation of children from their parents, as unfortunate and painful as that may be, is somehow equivalent to the Holocaust, is an insult to the memory of the six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, who were murdered in the death camps,” stated RICI President Mary Greene.
Given that many news reports have come out stating that reunifying many off these children with their parents may be impossible, Greene’s use of the word “temporary” seems premature. Also, dismissing the trauma inflicted on these families as “unfortunate and painful” rather than as ruthless, odious and fascistic betrays a fundamental lack of compassion.
Check out the coverage of this event provided by the Sinclair owned WJAR/Channel 10:
Reporter Tony Gugliotta spent the entire article essentially talking about how lovely the event was, only to title the piece based on the last paragraph, in which he downplayed the bigotry of RICI’s response.
2c. Refugee Dreams
Despite the Trump Administration‘s nativism and open hostility towards immigrants and immigration the Refugee Dream Center celebrated World Refugee Day with song, dance, food, poetry and visits from elected officials.
“We have over 65 million people displaced around the world,” said Omar Bah, Founder and Executive Director of the Refugee Dream Center. “Most of the time it’s because of war and conflicts, suffering that is caused by human beings.” 22 million out of the 65 million people displaced are registered as refugees, so 40 million are unaccounted for. Of those 22 million, less than one percent are settled out of refugee camps.
“America used to resettle most of these people,” continued Bah. “Until about one or two years ago. And we know what happened. An average of 100 thousand people used to come to America every year… but last year that number dropped to 53 thousand. This year we are expecting between 19 or 20 thousand.”
As to America’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents at the border, Bah, an American citizen by choice, was unequivocal. “We cannot be quiet today, when America, the leader of the moral attitude of this world, is imprisoning and putting children in concentration camps within this country…”
“We cannot be quiet about it,” continued Bah. “We cannot be silent. We want everybody, every moral voice to rise up and be heard and condemn this to the utmost breath, to make sure that this does not happen.”
Providence residents, documented or not, can avail themselves of IDPVD, the City of Providence’s municipal identification card program. IDPVD is available to all Providence residents ages 14 and older. The card serves as proof of identity and residency, can be used to engage with City departments and provides discounts to local establishments and venues.
Providence residents can follow this link to the application. (You can also fill out the application at the Providence City Hall, room 104) After filling out the application, you bring the accepted forms of ID to room 104 of the Providence City Hall, get your photo taken, pay your fee, and you get your IDPVD in the mail within two weeks.
“For many residents, municipal ID cards provide meaningful access to civic and economic life that they simply otherwise would not have,” said Gabriela Domenzain, director of the The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University. “The purpose of municipal IDs… is to provide community inclusion and improve relationships between residents and local government.”
I signed up for my IDPVD card right away.
From the GoFundMe:
Rawlins Cummings was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He came to this country at the age of 4 in 1981 and settled in New York. He met his future wife, Chelsea, and the two of them moved to Providence to attend Johnson and Wales University. They have been together ever since. They have a 16-year-old son who attends ACE and an 11-year-old who just graduated from MLK. Both children were born in RI. Rawlins picked his son up at MLK every day and would often ask the teacher how he was doing and make sure he was behaving. He is a dedicated father who wants the best for his family. Rawlins is a green card holder and has been for 23 years.
On May 22nd Rawlins went to the DMV to apply for a motorcycle license. To his dismay he was detained, and ICE was called. When they arrived, Rawlins was told that he had missed a court date in February which had been pushed up from November of 2019. Rawlins was never aware the date had been changed which ICE has confirmed because the notifications had been returned. The Cummings family had recently moved and although they changed their address with the post office and the Department of Immigration and Customs the notifications were not forwarded. To make matters worse the Department of Immigration and Customs does not communicate directly with the Immigration Courts.
Rawlins has been held since May 22nd which is a financial and emotional burden on his family. We are asking for donations to defray legal fees and ensure that the family stays current on their mortgage payment and other bills. Without Rawlins’ income this has been a stretch.
3. Kristen’s Law
About two dozen people gathered in the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House to protest the governor’s signing of Kristen’s Law. The governor has committed to signing this bill into law despite the continued and vehement opposition from the medical, public health, and recovery communities.
In an impassioned but reasoned speech, Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) who helped organize the event, said:
Kristen’s Law exposes anyone who provides a controlled substance to someone who has a fatal overdose to a potential life sentence.
Governor Raimondo said that we would revisit this in a couple of years, to see what the human toll was. And I’m just curious as to what tally mark I should be waiting for. Is it ten dead neighbors? Is it twenty? Is it fifty?
“If the Governor signs this bill into law today, she should go ahead and change her [party] affiliation, because there is nothing Democratic about this.
“And she should be ashamed.
“We are begging you, Governor, to use science, to use logic, to use history to inform your decisions.
“The history of the AFL-CIO demonstrates that we have fought through far more adversity than on Supreme Court decision,” said Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee. “The AFL-CIO is an organization of unions and by its very nature we depend on cooperation and collective action. This court decision presents a challenge in the short term, but in the long term we will draw on our successful history of labor organizing to grow even stronger.”
5a. Elections 2018
Here’s a few new announcements:
5b. John Carnevale
Ted Nesi over at WPRI/Channel 12 reports that “Former state Representative John Carnevale will be the endorsed Democratic candidate for his old House seat in the September 12 primary, even as he remains under indictment for lying about whether he lived there two years ago.”
RINOW notes in an oped that, “In October 2011 he was indicted on charges of first- and second-degree sexual assault and one count of assault with intent to commit sexual assault. But the charges were dropped in January 2012 after his accuser died suddenly.”
“How could a man like this even think it reasonable to run for elected office?” continues the RINOW oped. “Because Rhode Island has created a political environment in which women are ignored. If legislators do not value the autonomy of women’s bodies, if they do not protect them in the workplace, it is no surprise that men believe they can treat women criminally, and still be considered democratic leaders.”
UpriseRI does not make endorsements.
That said, Vote for Mario Mendez in House District 13.
For more on Carnevale and current District 13 Representative Ramon Perez, see:
6. The Woman Project
The Woman Project interviewed Ange Strom-Weber, activist and teacher about reproductive justice and activism.
“What are the best ways in your opinion to educate people about this issue?” asked The Woman Project.
“Campaign for the Republican candidate in Cranston,” said Strom-Weber, “One extra Republican in the RI General Assembly will barely make a blip, but getting rid of Speaker Mattiello is priceless.”
6b. The Woman Project
And many, many more…
7. Fair Pay
Last week, as the session came to an end, I found myself unable to do a complete Uprising piece and concentrated on Speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s targeted assassination of the Fair Pay Bill. The bill would have increased protections for woman and people of color in fighting for equal pay for equal work and was passed unanimously in the State Senate.
The House version would have actually rolled those protections backwards.
Here’s ReWire‘s Auditi Guha with a complete breakdown of what happened:
8a. Energy – National Grid
“This is no longer a negotiation,” said Paul Rakotoarisoa, one of the co-chairs of the Providence Democratic Socialists of America. “We are not asking for it any more. This is now a demand. Our first demand is that you institute PIPP. The next one is that you leave Rhode Island, National Grid, and let Rhode Island handle it.”
It was the eighth and final public comment hearing in National Grid’s rate case, but the first since a settlement was announced between National Grid and the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (RIDPUC) over a three-year series of proposed rate changes. The meeting was held by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC) on June 19 at the Providence Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island.
The proposed rate case settlement came under criticism from representatives of the George Wiley Center and the Providence Democratic Socialists of America.
The biggest issue for the two advocacy groups is the lack of a Percentage Income Payment Plan (PIPP), which would allow low-income energy customers to pay locked-in, affordable rates based on income. National Grid offers this option in states that require it by law, but the plan awaiting approval avoids this idea in favor of a straight 25 percent discount for low-income ratepayers, which is less than bordering Massachusetts offers.
8b. Energy – NTE Energy
“Their original proposal was ‘rejected without prejudice’ in May 2017 by the Connecticut Siting Council which allowed NTE Energy to refile their docket,” writes Lauren Niedel. “Tonight’s meeting was to go over the “minor changes” of the plant – like moving tanks 35 feet and switching to a Mitsubishi combustion turbine vs what they were going to use.”
8c. Energy – Invenergy
Invenergy, the Chicago-based fossil fuel energy company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the heart of the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island, is going to make a handsome profit in the New England energy market – $20 million – and it doesn’t have to produce a single kilowatt of energy to do so.
8d. Energy – Port of Providence
Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) was in court Wednesday arguing against Shell Oil Company’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the environmental advocacy group. The lawsuit alleges that Shell’s Providence Terminal is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and is endangering the Providence River and local community as a result.
“Shell’s facility is an accident waiting to happen,” said Chris Kilian, Vice President of Strategic Litigation at CLF. “One severe storm could result in the terminal spilling toxic chemicals into the Providence River and surrounding communities. The company has failed to prepare the facility for the effects of climate change, even as sea levels continue to rise and stronger storms are becoming more frequent. We will continue the fight to protect the community and our environment from the dangers posed by this terminal.”
8e. Energy – Sunrise Movement
Members of the Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition, as part of the Sunrise Movement, made their presence known at the 2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee Meeting on Sunday night by standing outside the meeting with signs urging attending politicians and candidates to no longer accept campaign donations from fossil fuel companies.
9a. 2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee Meeting
Gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, who is challenging incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo for the Democratic Party nomination, angered many and stunned more as he withdrew his bid for an endorsement from the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
After a short speech, which Brown used to go after Governor Raimondo’s record on a host of issues, Gina Raimondo rose to accuse Brown of lying. “There were a number of lies and mistruths in what Mr Brown just said,” said Raimondo. “And I’m not going to waste my time addressing them here. But especially the couple hundred thousand dollars – It’s just a lie.”
Raimondo was specifically challenging Brown’s claim that she took home $200,000 from a Partners Health Care fundraiser. Brown said:
When the possibility of Boston-based Partners Health Care buying Care New England became public a few months ago, Governor Raimondo said she shouldn’t say anything about it because she’d have to regulate it. That’s true. It is the Governor and the DOH that will be responsible for reviewing the deal, determining whether it is in the best interests of the public and either approving or rejecting it.
This would be the biggest health care acquisition in the history of state. And there are a lot of serious questions about this deal: will Rhode Islanders lose health care jobs to Massachusetts? Will we have to go to Boston to get specialized health care services? We will lose local control of our health care system? The Governor was right a few months ago to say she must stay arms-length from the deal.
Fast forward to a week ago Friday morning when Governor Raimondo went to Boston for a campaign fundraising breakfast where she collected $200,000 for her campaign coffers. That fundraiser was hosted by Partners Health Care.
Does anyone seriously believe that Governor Raimondo can assess this deal fairly and look out for the people of this state, when she just pocketed $200,000 from a fundraiser hosted by Partners?
Governor Raimondo should give back that money.
The relentless pay-to-play fundraising threatens the functioning of our government, is a corruption of democracy itself and a violation of the core values of the Democratic Party.
Asked for comment, David Ortiz, Raimondo’s Deputy Campaign Manager, responded, by not directly refuting any of Matt Brown’s assertions with proof:
“It’s simply not true. You should ask Matt Brown to provide proof, and while he’s at it, he should release the names of Global Zero’s donors for the past decade.
The purpose of the nominating convention is to nominate and vote to endorse Democrats up and down the ticket. Matt Brown wanted to be nominated so he would have a platform to trash the Governor, score political points and walk away, without a vote. That’s not the way democracy works.
Progressives, members of the women’s caucus and Democrats across the spectrum voted for Gina last night – Josh Miller, Grace Diaz, James Diossa, Sulina Mohanty, Ray Sullivan, on and on, 139 Democrats.
Matt Brown got two votes. Now he is lashing out at everyone involved.
Note: Matt Brown got zero votes at the endorsement meeting.
Brown released the following:
I challenge the governor to identify what part of my speech was untrue. Specifically, the governor claimed last night that she did not raise $200,000 – as reported – at a Boston fundraiser hosted by board members of the out-of-state mega hospital group whose takeover of Care New England will ultimately come before state regulators for approval.
The Governor should explain herself. If she did not collect $200,000 from the Partners Health Care fundraiser, how much did she accept? And how much did she make at the fundraiser hosted by Joe Paolino – who suggested that donors should give to Raimondo if they expect state contracts – that she attended instead of participating in the Women’s Fund forum on issues affecting women in Rhode Island that took place the same night?
9b. Aaron Regunberg
Matt Brown and Gina Raimondo got the headlines, but the other big story out of the 2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party State Committee Meeting was about the race for Lieutenant Governor. Though incumbent Daniel McKee took the nomination, as expected, challenger Aaron Regunberg took 36 votes to McKee’s 96. Though a decisive numeric victory for McKee, it demonstrates that McKee is weak in a Democratic Party that, if the last presidential primary is any indication, runs to the left of the Party’s core leaders.
10. Net Neutrality
Why did legislation to protect Net Neutrality die in the House this session?
“…we know exactly who killed it,” said Representative Aaron Regunberg. “I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing entrenched, wealthy interests rig the system for their benefit. We know it’s not just Net neutrality.
“Drug companies, fossil fuel polluters, the NRA, Pay Day lenders – they are all engaged in these backroom deals – those folks who can write big checks – to stop the fights the people are demanding and that’s exactly what the cable companies and internet service providers did this year, using their connections and resources to drown out the voices of working and middle class families all across Rhode island who have demanded that our state step up to protect the Internet status as one of the few remaining public squares where everyone is on the same level.”
Randall Rose, who organized a rally at the State House to exposed these backroom dealings, added, “They claimed that passing Net Neutrality would make Rhode Island an outlier. They said that if [Rhode Island] passes a Net Neutrality law, it would send an unwelcoming signal to Business about locating in Rhode Island.”
Here’s local small business owner and your current author Steve Ahlquist explaining what Net Neutrality means to small media outlets like his:
11. Transgender discrimination
[Trigger warning: There is some very ugly anti-transgender words referenced at the link]
“Clearly he was making a point,” said Emily Clark. “He’s not the first person not to pitch to me. But to do it in back-to-back games, like a total of approximately ten times, is a bit excessive.”
Emily is on a woman’s slow-pitch softball team. During a tournament on Saturday, June 16, her team played two games against the S&S Landscape Women’s Slow Pitch Tournament Team. The S&S coach, Scott Sunderland, instructed his pitchers to walk Emily each time she came to bat.
Emily is a trans woman.
“Not to pitch to me at all, that was an annoyance but really it was afterwards that upset me quite a bit,” said Emily, “because when I got back home, a friend of mine reached out to say, ‘Hey, Scott is posting this, I thought you might want to know.’”
You can read the rest here.
12. Picture of the week:
House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, House Finance Chair Marvin Abney and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello at the State House.
UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps: